I had to come all the way to San Francisco to have a renewed appreciation for the illustrations of Don Freeman.
After taking a few cable car rides, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf and going on a walking tour of downtown San Francisco, I finally made it to City Lights, the city’s best known independent bookstore. Naturally, I went right to the children’s section (a quite small one, by the way) and right next to Virginia Lee Burton’s classic picture book, Maybelle the Cable Car, was a book I didn’t know by an illustrator I did – Don Freeman. Freeman’s most famous character, Corduroy, is popular in our school library, and I’ve always been a big fan of Norman the Doorman, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not know his 1957 Caldecott Honor Book, Fly High, Fly Low.
What a wonderful discovery! Freeman’s color picture drawings of San Francisco are lovely. There is a double-page spread of the city – the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car (Maybelle?), and Coit Tower which makes me think of Freeman as a more serious artist than I had before. The back of the book says that Freeman, who made his living as a New York jazz musician, began to devote all of his attention to art after losing his trumpet on a subway train. If that’s the case, it’s the first time I’ve felt grateful that someone lost their musical instrument.
On a completely different note — while riding a cable car today, I saw a laundromat with a perfect name: The Missing Sock. Isn’t that great! Tomorrow, it’s off to Muir Woods. They should have a good bookshop there…